Tu BShevat events focus on environmental awareness

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Tu B'Shevat also represents strong religious beliefs, explains Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Sha'ar Zahav. "The earth and creation are witnesses to God's glory. Therefore, as part of our religion we should be taking care of God's handiwork."

Once a simple agricultural event to Jewish farmers, Tu B'Shevat later became an important symbol to Jews exiled from Israel. On that day, they were able to express their longing to return to Israel through prayer and by eating fruit grown in Israel.

Centuries later, the Jewish mystics, or kabbalists, narrowed the holiday's focus to trees. They believed trees represented the Tree of Life, the symbol for God.

In more recent times, the Jewish community has observed the little-known holiday by either planting trees in their communities or providing money for the planting of trees in Israel.

The S.F. community seder has been made possible in part through a grant from the National Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and support from the Koret Synagogue Initiative.

The seder will open with a reading of biblical passages about fruits and nuts produced in Israel and include study from sections of the Talmud and Zohar. An original Haggadah, which calls for Jews to become more active and responsible for the environment, will be featured.

Food groupings, representing different levels of creation and types of personalities, include walnuts, pomegranates, olives, peaches, figs and pears. Throughout the service, kosher wine will be served. (White wine represents winter; red wine, fall; and red mixed with white, spring and summer.) A kosher vegetarian meal will be served.

Cost for the event is $10 for members of sponsoring institutions, $12 for non-members. Reservation deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 30. Send checks with number of people attending to Janet Harris, Congregation Beth Sholom, P.O. Box 590418, S.F., CA. For information, call Dr. Barak Gale at (415) 543-9011. Reservations will be held at the door.

In the East Bay, artist and teacher Claire Sherman will lead a banquet celebrating Tu B'Shevat beginning 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4 at the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. The seder is co-sponsored by the BRJCC and Congregation Netivot Shalom. Tickets are $9 for members, $11 for non-members. Child care is available for $5. Reservations are required by Thursday, Feb. 1. For information, call (510) 848-0237.

Other Tu B'Shevat events include:

The Bureau of Jewish Education will hold a Book Time for Families, 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4 at the Jewish Community Library, 601-14th Ave., S.F. For information, call (415) 751-6983.

The final segment of the Jewish Family Education Project's mini-conference, "A Tu B'Shevat Intergenerational Happening," will feature multigenerational teams working on projects involving writing, music, drama, craft and text study. The event is part of a larger conference for educators, rabbis, parents, lay leaders and children taking place from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., S.F. For information, call (415) 751-6983.